March 17, 2011
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts have announced that Anthony Braxton, a junior at South Charleston High School in South Charleston, Kanawha County, is the state winner of the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. Braxton won $200 plus an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. for the national finals on April 28-29.
In addition, Braxton took home a trophy created for the Poetry Out Loud competition by Charleston artists Chris Dutch and Robin Hammer. His school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books, and a traveling trophy, also created by Dutch and Hammer, to display for one year.
Braxton chose to recite “I, Too” by Langston Hughes and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. His third round selection was “The Empty Dance Shoes” by Cornelius Eady.
This year’s runner-up, Lauren Garretson, a junior at Pocahontas County High School, began the contest with “Do Not Go Gentle Into the Good Night” by Dylan Thomas and “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Her third round performance piece was “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe. Garretson will receive $100 and her school library will collect $200 for poetry books.
The state semifinal round was held Friday, March 4. Twenty-one students from 21 high schools in 19 counties competed. The top 10 finalists advanced to the West Virginia State Finals on Saturday, March 5, at 1 p.m., in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The other students who were finalists included Caryn Cable from Richwood High School, Nicholas County; Katelyn Cottrell from Wirt County High School; Megan Haynes from Huntington High School, Cabell County; Destiny Hoffman from Wahama High School, Mason County; Bruce Chapman McCuskey from Nitro High School, Kanawha County; Nadye Menking-Hogatt from Capital High School, Kanawha County; Afsheen Misaghi from George Washington High School, Kanawha County; and Leah Yoho, Cameron High School, Marshall County.
Judges for the West Virginia finals were Crystal Good, poet, speaker, and advocate for arts, education, equality and the environment; Jasmine Lewis, 2009 and 2010 Poetry Out Loud winner from Spring Valley High School, Wayne County and current freshman majoring in political science at Marshall University; Devon McNamara, poet, essayist and professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College where she has directed the Honors Program and conducted six cultural courses in the Republic of Ireland for college students; and Caleb Stacy, 2010 Poetry Out Loud runner-up from Williamson High School, Mingo County and current freshman majoring in English at West Virginia University (WVU).
West Virginia native Chris Sarandon, star of screen, theater and television, served as emcee. He graduated magna cum laude from WVU and received his master’s degree in theater from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Originally from Beckley, Sarandon has performed in such films as Dog Day Afternoon, for which he received an Oscar nomination, The Princess Bride, Child’s Play, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Loggerheads. His Broadway appearances have included The Rothschilds, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Nick and Nora and MCyrano de Bergerac.
The Greg Howard Quartet, an upbeat and funky jazz band featuring John D’earth on trumpet, Darrell Rose on percussion and James McLaughlin on drums, performed during the competition. Its members have performed with diverse artists, from Buddy Rich, Tito Puente, Bruce Hornsby, The Wailers, and Old School Freight Train to the Dave Matthews Band. Bandleader and composer Greg Howard plays the Chapman Stick, an American bass and guitar hybrid that is played by tapping on the strings with both hands, similar to a piano.
Poetry Out Loud is a program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry Magazine, the oldest English-language monthly publication dedicated to verse. The program is designed to encourage high school-age students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition. John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation says “The public recitation of great poetry is a way to honor the speaker, the poem, and the audience all at once.”
For more information about the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, contact Cicely Bosley, arts in education coordinator for the Division, at (304) 558-0240 ext. 713, or e-mail her at Cicely.J.Bosely@wv.gov.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
MEDIA NOTE: Photographs of the 2011 state final are available at this link.